… and then apparently lives until the 21st century where he goes hiking around Glastonbury as an old man. That was a peculiar and unforeseen final few seconds! But it’s good that Merlin ends with something unexpected and light-hearted because that sort of mischievous take on the legend has characterised the show from the start.
I was greatly moved by this. Not for the perfunctory confrontations between our heroes and villains – the important deaths felt rushed. But I loved it for its emotional content and for the time Arthur and Merlin spend together. Merlin’s touching revelation to the king and their subsequent last few hours alone almostjustifies the missed opportunity to give Mordred and Morgana a decent ending.
The battle picks up instantly from last week, with its shadowy 300-like vibe in the mountain pass, but this time they have the sorcerer Emrys to help them out. Finally he starts throwing around the kind of powerful lightning attacks we’ve wanted to see for ages! And it works: the Saxons are defeated and with his dragonlord powers Emrys is even able to send away Aithusa. From Merlin’s perspective the battle is triumphant and it’s a striking vision of him on the hillside casting bolts of magic against their enemies. We’re treated to yet more epic scenes as Emrys strides amongst the bodies of fallen knights and then carries his friend’s body out of the valley.
We’re barely six minutes in before the clash with Mordred. “You gave me no choice” is his only line tonight and it’s a considerable sadness that somebody we’d grown to think of as significant vanishes so quickly. It’s his blade that pierces Arthur but this is no grand final confrontation; Mordred gets no sense of vengeance on Kara’s behalf. Both this and Merlin’s final stab at Morgana are underwhelming, swift resolutions which make me think, “Was that it?” To her credit, Katie McGrath gives a great performance in her few short scenes, shrieking, “I want him dead!” Morgana manages to dispatch Gwaine with the Nathair but I can’t help feeling that the sub-plot with Eira is a distraction. Percival and Gwaine get to chop up some Saxons but the scene of their captivity in the forest just delays Morgana getting to Arthur – but not by much.
The real meat of this episode is Merlin and Arthur having the conversation they should have had for years. It begins with them revealing how much they care about each other (Arthur’s cry of “Where have you been?!”), continues with Arthur’s revelation that he is the sorcerer Emyris (which Arthur is shocked by and initially rejects, partly because he’s stung that he’s been lied to) and ends with acceptance and restored comradeship… just in time for the king’s departure. Merlin’s tearful confession that he’s the sorcerer as they lie on the ground is excellent and reminds me once again how lucky we’ve been with Colin Morgan in the lead role. Although Arthur’s initial reaction is bafflement and, briefly, rejection, their long-established friendship wins out. It’s a subtle turning point when Arthur starts to joke with Merlin again: “So you’re not an idiot – that was another lie!” He realises that Merlin hasn’t sought any credit for what he’s done over the years and fondly says, “I don’t want you to change, I want you to always be you.” It seems a full reconciliation has occurred, especially when he apologises for how he treated him and thanks him. I can’t be the only one with a lump in my throat as Arthur’s dying body drifts away from Merlin on the boat.
So despite the odd pacing, the characters get an emotional resolution of sorts – even the Great Dragon – and the scenes with Arthur and Merlin are heartbreaking. It’s hard to believe this is the same show that gave us farting goblins or Lady Catrina the Troll. It’s gone on a tremendous journey from light-hearted teatime romp to something darker and more poignant. We’ll miss it.
Episode Review Source: http://www.sfx.co.uk/